River levels are dropping and fire restrictions are ramping up as the wider Wanganui region dries out.
Temperatures are expected to range between 27 and 29C for the next five days. Farmers are under stress again, with meat works at capacity and extra feed needed on many properties.
Affco's Imlay works was "well chockered up" with lambs, and there was a waiting list for killing ewes, one farmer said. At Anzco Food's lamb plant in the Rangitikei a spokeswoman said both shifts were working all available hours.
There has been no measurable rain in Wanganui in January. The Whanganui River is running at less than 1m at Pipiriki, with restrictions on some water takes. The last meaningful rainfall was on December 31, but even then it was only 2.8mm. So far this year a barely noticeable 0.2mm has fallen on both January 7 and 20.
Dairy farmer Brian Doughty said his cows would have no grass after this rotation. He was looking at feeding them baled silage and buying in palm kernel extract.
"We have to feed them. We can't dry them off yet."
Even if it rained today, it would be 20 days before there was more grass for them.
The Rangitikei River has dropped to 2.9m at Mangaweka, and Horizons Regional Council has limited water takes from it and the Hautapu.
The Rangitikei district is under a restricted fire season. In all its towns except for Marton, watering can only be done with a handheld hose.
But Taihape farmer Fraser Gordon said it wasn't as dry in his area as the drought two years ago.
"We've got some feed but our water is lower than it was then."
He will need to cut into his fodder willows unless there is rain within two weeks.
Waimarino had a very wet December. It's drying, but not as badly as Wanganui. Water take from the Makotuku Stream and Mangawhero River is restricted, and people in the towns are only allowed to water with handheld hoses.
A restricted fire season begins there today.
Raetihi farmer Kelly O'Neill said normal farm work didn't happen in a drought.
"It's a daily thing to check water troughs and crops, because insects and animals attack your crops, and animals get out through dry creek beds and under floodgates."
The South Taranaki district will have a total fire ban from midnight tomorrow. Its council is asking residents to conserve water and fix leaks, otherwise there will be water restrictions.
The council suggests people let their lawns get a little longer and dry out, because they will recover in time. Swimming pools should be covered, to stop evaporation, and people are asked to take short showers and wash only full loads.
An extreme fire risk warning has been issued by Wanganui District Council and DoC, and lighting fires in open areas is prohibited from tonight.
Area commander and principal rural fire officer Bernie Rush said no new fire permits will be issued and all existing permits are cancelled until the fire ban is lifted.
"We don't want anyone using the public barbecues at Kai Iwi or Lake Wiritoa and rural officers will patrol the beaches to make sure no-one is lighting open fires.
"It has been illegal to light fires on the beaches in the district for years but there are always a few people who disregard the rules, and we have had a few this summer."
Metservice communications meteorologist John Law said the last decent rainfall in Wanganui was on December 20, well over a month ago, when 13mm fell.
"The weather has been dominated by high pressure. We've just seen great big areas of high pressure sitting over the country," Mr Law said. "At least for the next week or so it looks like it's going to remain dry."